2020 is about to end, and what a relief? Am I right? Most of us can't remember a year filled with more brokenness on so many fronts! 2021 offers a sense of hope but of course, many challenges remain. I've begun to think about what 2021 could look like when it comes to our ministry to children and their families. Have you? If you haven't thought about 2021 much, perhaps this post can be your starting point. Here are 10 things I've been thinking about when it comes to children's ministry in 2021. I call this list 10 things I think I think.
#1-I don't know!
Say it with me; "I don't know." There are still lots of unknowns as we enter 2021. For example, I don't know exactly what our VBS week will look like in 2021. I don't know when our in-person Wednesday night program will return or what it will look like. I don't know who is going to win the Super Bowl! You get the picture. I don't know, and you don't know, but God does. How does this affect plans and preparation for 2021? You still need to plan right? But how do you do that? I would suggest creating ways for your families to engage in 2021 that is flexible. Your plans need the ability to expand and shrink depending on how 21 shakes out. For example, even though I don't know exactly what our VBS will look like this summer our team has created a plan that we believe is ready for whatever the summer throws at us. We can have a big in-person experience, a big virtual experience, or both. I would encourage you not to create an event or plan that relies entirely on "normal" returning. Normal is probably going to look different; 2020 has been a long year and created new habits all across the board. Work efficiently so if you arrive at your big event and have to pivot, all your time and efforts haven't been wasted.
#2-Relationships are key.
You already knew this pre-COVID and you know this now too, but building relationships with your families, volunteers, kids, community, and Jesus could not be more critical. How we do this will look different, but a focus on creating strong relationships to kids, leaders, and to Jesus is what will take your ministry from 21 and beyond. That may involve a shift of focus from numbers to relationships. Building relationships takes time and effort. If you have lots of families in your ministry, it will take even more time. Writing cards, leaving signs in yards, goodies on the porch, a phone or zoom call are all things that take time. Start building and strengthening those relationships, let your families know you are here and represent Jesus to them.
#3-Hybrid is no longer just a car.
Before 2020 hybrid was just a sweet ride from car companies, right? Now it is ministry of the future. When I say hybrid, I'm talking excellent in-person experiences combined with excellent virtual experiences. Zoom calls, a social media presence, and YouTube videos give you the option to connect with kids and families anytime and anywhere. Maybe you start connecting with families outside your community thanks to Zoom calls; perhaps a child who can only come to Sunday school once a month can now come more often thanks to a zoom call. Don't worry if bad weather keeps you from meeting in the building you have ways to connect despite the snow, rain, etc. Most of us do great in-person experiences so don't lose that, but look for ways to continue to reach families digitally. Have your Hybrid ready to drive in 2021.
#4- Ding Dong Ditch It.
With this hybrid now parked in your driveway, you may wonder how you keep everything going. 2021 is a great time to say good-bye to things that have served you well so that you can move into the future. It's like that fabulous gift basket that you leave on your friend's porch and then ring the doorbell and runoff. The gift basket is great, but it's time to leave it behind. I can't think of a better time to get rid of that program you have to manufacture energy for. If it is time for a camp, program, or meeting to go why not use COVID to your advantage and say "COVID has made us realize we need to stop doing this so we can start doing this." You can't do it all in ministry, and 2020 has allowed you to say good-bye to that gift basket.
Coming in at number 5 is the more obvious item about equipping families. 2020 accelerated the concept of the home being the center of much of our lives. Prior to COVID, we all knew that the home had the most significant opportunity to grow kids in their faith, but it seemed like an uphill battle for several reasons. We should capitalize on this opportunity to equip and encourage the home to be a place where spiritual growth happens.
#6- Unleash a new kind of creativity.
You all are creative! I'm on plenty of Facebook groups where I see the fantastic things children's leaders are doing to connect with their kids and families and give them unforgettable experiences where kids feel and see the love of Jesus. As we look to 2021 and beyond, we need to tap into that creativity in more significant ways. If post-COVID ministry is the same as pre-COVID ministry, we may have missed a once in a lifetime opportunity to shift. Think big in your creativity now; what is the best way to reach families for Jesus in the future. I don't think it is going to look like going back to 2019.
#7- Our world needs Jesus.
If there was ever a time when our communities needed Jesus it is right now. The tremendous amount of brokenness that 2020 has revealed reminds me that we have a message that can help bring reconciliation and redemption to this world. The message of Jesus is more applicable now and that should empower and deputize us to find a way through our ministries to bring hope.
Speaking of hope our church defines hopes as "the worst thing is never the last thing." As followers of Jesus, we have this unrelenting presence of hope and nothing can take that away. Share it with your kids and families. Share it with your community!
#9- You Can Do It.
Yup! You can! I believe in you. You've got creativity and resources. You have Jesus on your side and you have me cheering you on!
#10-Post 2020 Ministry could be amazing!
There has and will continue to be sorrow over what was lost thanks to 2020 but imagine what could be. We've been given a chance to start over; what dreams do you have for your ministry? Your church? Your community? I can't think of a better time to begin putting some of those dreams into reality. Imagine what the world could be like it if we all put into action our God-given dreams for our communities.
And that's what I think I think (I think). I'll let you know when my list changes as I'm sure it will. 2020 has changed everything. Wishing your ministry a 2021 unlike anything you could have imagined! (In a good way!)
Director of Children’s Ministry
Church of the Resurrection